Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homeless Kit/Blessing Bags - Family Service Project

A couple weeks ago I was studying Matthew 15 & 16 in my Bible Study and was struck by how Jesus "had compassion on the crowd." How he met their physical needs (the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000) quietly and unelaborately, without recognition.  Jesus was not wealthy. Now, I cannot perform miracles of course, but I felt inspired to seek out needs around me and do what I CAN do to meet those needs.

That night I made a homeless kit inspired by something I saw on Pinterest awhile back: a gallon Ziploc baggie, a few travel size toiletries from my stash, a couple protein bars, a bottle of Purell and package of wet wipes, and a $5 bill.  I prayed God would show me the needs of others and give me compassion and ability to meet those needs.

Is there any surprise the VERY NEXT MORNING, on my way home from the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, there was a woman holding a sign on the corner, before I got on the highway.  My husband says there is always at least one person there, but I had never really noticed.  I was grateful it was a woman, as I was a bit nervous about rolling down my window as a mom in a minivan with little kids.

It was simple, quiet, unelaborate, without praise, and did not require wealth.  15 seconds it took to roll down my window and hand her a bag from just behind the passenger seat. Then on with our day.

The next day I saw a video going around Facebook about making homeless kits out of thrift store backpacks. They were able to fit much more in a backpack - without really raising the cost much at all.  I didn't find any backpacks at Savers, but I found a bag that would work.  Since I love to coupon it was easy to pick up some items for the bag that were very inexpensive out of pocket costs to me.

We made 2 more kits, so for inspiration, here's what was included in ours:
-Several granola and protein bars
-Dove chocolates
-wet wipes
-hand sanitizer
-travel size and samples of shampoos and conditioners
-full size deodorant (men's b/c even women can agree those smell great)
-body wash and bar soap
-new socks
-large wool gloves (thrift store) (it is darned cold here in the Arctic, I mean, Minnesota)
-reusable water bottle with a Bible verse on it (thrift store)
-box of cookies and several Belvita bars
-jar of Peanut Butter and plastic fork, knife, and spoon
-full size toothpaste

What's great is that my kids were able to help make these and it opened us up to a conversation about homelessness and helping others!

What would you add? Have you tried this?

In April 2015 we were out of bags, we had been for awhile, and were able to gather enough materials to create 5 more bags.  This isn't a lot, I wish it were more.  However I don't want the food going bad so I made these 5 and am stockpiling the nonperishable items for later.

A birds-eye view of the items included in this                              Food items - candy, granola bars, 
round of Blessing Bags.                                                                protein bars, Ramen noodles, trail                                                                                                              mix, beef jerky, chewable vitamins

 Toiletries -- shampoo (2-3 per bag), conditioner (1 per bag),  razors, bar soap (2 per bag), body soap, lotion, full size deodorant, sunscreen, body wet wipes, mouthwash, toothbrushes (3 per bag), toothpaste (1 full and 1 travel per bag), roll TP, and nice reusable water bottles

I stuffed (and I mean STUFFED) the items into cheap reusable bags (shopping bag or drawstring backpack style - I collect these from various sources and can buy cheap at thrift stores).  The kids draw a small photo and say "We are praying for you today. God cares for you."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Our Special Needs Journey:Child #3 - Dean's Story (Special Needs & Health Issues)

Well, after 6 months from his initial consult, we have survived his 2-day evaluation and I sat down with the Eval Team for some answers - and direction on our next steps.  I love my children, I want to parent each of them in the way that is best for that child.  There is not a one-size-fits-all parenting tactic for our family. And with Dean, I needed answers.

My pregnancy with him was, as always, full of complications.  Hyperemesis (translation: super vomit)
plagued the first half, bedrest began at only 17 weeks. I had a subchorionic hemorrhage and although this is not always an issue, as it can heal, this pregnancy it WAS a problem.  The hole in the placenta was growing and reducing nutrition to the baby.

I was given P17 injections weekly (in the bum), spent ALL my time in a recliner, attempting to work from home with a laptop and a cell phone, going in for twice-weekly ultrasounds and snagging a shower every 3-4 days. It was certainly tough, with one kid in elementary school and one in a special ed preschool (this was just before we began our homeschool journey), and both Dan and I working full time.

Steroid shots for his lungs were given as well as many rounds of terbutaline to stall preterm labor. It all paid off and my water broke 4 am on Day 1 of Week 37! Not a preemie!! Due to meconium in my water, he was briefly in the ICU, but was able to come home when I was discharged - the first time ever!

This was a time in our lives when we really learned what relying fully, completely, whole-heartedly on Christ every single moment of each day. I remember making it to 24 weeks and dropping to my knees in prayer (not easy when pregnant and haven't moved your body much in 2 months) and breaking down in tears. Lord, this child can now live outside the womb, if needed, if this hole grows too large.  Lord, with You, nothing is impossible. I would have not had the strength to survive this pregnancy without a daily reliance on God.  I know He drew us closer to Him in this time.

Many blessings came from this pregnancy, aside from the actual baby.  I made new friends thanks to a group of church people that brought us meals and helped with cleaning/laundry.  I discovered we could in fact survive on 1 income if we had to, if we gave it to God, if it is His will.  And that also led to giving homeschooling a try.  Looking back, I am intensely grateful for every complication of that pregnancy.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Homemade Marble Run Ideas!

This was a fun project because my son is over the moon for marble runs and my oldest daughter is really into active creating.  While Taylor is content to sketch, Julia enjoyed constructing several marble runs for her brothers.  Once built, even the baby loved watching the marble go, so this was a great cold-weather project.  We've had a number of waaaay below zero days here in the Arctic - er, I mean, Minnesota, and have been getting restless indoors. 

This one is nothing more than toilet paper rolls and masking tape.  But it works - the marble will travel down the entire dresser in TP rolls and end in a bowl at the bottom.  This is a part of the boy's room that no one really sees, so I'm fine with it.

This cardboard cereal box maze was also made by Julia.  I get it, they are not beautiful, Pinterest-quality, items.  I will say this: My autistic, poorly coordinated 12 year old made it with her autistic and very poorly coordinated 4 year old brother.  It works and they have fun.  It was free to do, kept them entertained a long time, taught them a bit about physics, and made minimal mess.  Are those enough reasons to give it a try?!  

Here are some close ups, showing how we taped and cut out items, hope this gives you some inspiration and ideas to make your own!

Cereal box, slice of cardboard from the box, 2 tp rolls cut open a bit on top, 1 tp rolls left alone (but colored b/c Dean will not miss an opportunity to make a rainbow! We tapped a Dixie cup to the top as a funnel of sorts to begin the process.

Julia went a little crazy making this one very elaborate. The ball starts in a bowl and TP roll atop a cereal box.  The box has ramps leading down.There is a hole on the side and spirals down a paper plate into a tissue box.  The box is held up higher by 2 empty food canisters. Clear plastic wrap covers the box so that the marble does not fall out.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our Special Needs Journey:Part 6 - This IS Our Normal - A Week in the Life of 3 Children with Autism

It occurs to me as I sit here typing, I don't know who I am writing this to - God, myself, anyone who will lend an ear and give a virtual hug - or WHY - to vent, for advice, a sounding board, a prayer? Regardless, I need to take the time, in the midst of the busyness of life, to sit - and to think. This post is ridiculously long but going through one week of our life with you explains SO MUCH.

I often feel so overwhelmed by all there is to be done and by all the thoughts swirling around in my head that I fail to accomplish anything.  I have days where I sit in "my" chair in the living room and can't figure out where to begin.  Pay bills? Work on the taxes? My Bible Study? Schoolwork with the kids? Balance the bank account for a volunteer organization I'm Treasurer for? Create invites for Bruce's party? Fold laundry? Fill out paperwork for Julia's doctor appointment next week? By the time I determine the most pertinent and time sensitive project, it's 2 am. (I was interrupted a lot, of course.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Homemade Spaghetti O's (Alphabetties)

So my preschooler has autism and has a very short list of things he will eat (texture sensitivities).  I'm guessing even "typical" kids are picky though, right? I could spend a small fortune on canned Spaghetti O's, which are, although convenient and acceptable to my son, processed, in a can, with ingredients I can't pronounce. 

So I tasked myself with making a homemade version that was cheaper, healthier, still simple, quick, and something the kids will actually eat. I often make baby food for DIY squeeze pouches, and if there are leftovers I freeze them in ice cube trays, toss frozen into ziploc bags, and label.  I love to hide veggies in foods or use the fruit cubes for smoothies.  So this recipe has cooked, pureed butternut squash in it, but that is totally optional.  I've made it without but since I did have some on hand, it was great to sneak in some extra nutrition.

-16 oz pasta (large box) - you can use rings, just like Spaghetti O's, but my little guy is OBSESSED with the alphabet (autism thing?) so I used 2 10 oz bags of alphabet pasta - then called it "Alphabetties" 
-26 oz Family Size can of Campbell's condensed tomato soup (I have yet to find a store brand that tastes right in this meal)
-1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
-Half can of water
-Dash of garlic salt
-3 oz cooked, pureed butternut squash (optional)

Boil pasta, strain, set aside.  In saucepan heat up tomato soup and worcestershire sauce.  Rinse can a bit with water, use that tomatoey water to add to soup - a whole can makes the sauce too thin. Stir in brown sugar and garlic.  I like to add pureed veggies (not too much that you can taste it or sauce is too thick) such as squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, or even spinach.  I freeze in a baby - food ice cube tray set that is one ounce per cube and tend to use 2 -3 of them.  Stir in cooked pasta.

I store these in single serve tupperware containers (I like the BPA-free glass kind I can microwave for 90 seconds) so I have lunches for the whole week and I don't need to dirty additional bowls.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Paper Plate Valentine's Wreath

Pretty simple - cut the center out of a paper plate (I actually used the cheap kind, not even the nice sturdy ones).  Wrap ribbon around the plate - mine was 1 inch wide, pink satin - and glue the end on back of plate.  I used hot glue for the whole project. 

My daughters used a heart-shaped punch (from a scrapbook store) to cut several heartsout of different shades of pink construction paper.  Shape pipe cleaners into hearts (cut pipe shorter to create the size heart you want). We also cut a few heart shapes out felt.  

We glued all our hearts on the plate, added a few sequins, and finished it off with a pink bow. Cute, right?!